And who is my neighbour?
"Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?" Luke 10.36
The three referred to here are characters in Jesus' parable about a man who is mugged on the notoriously dangerous Jerusalem-Jericho road. The first two hurry by, either because they are concerned for their own safety or because they wish to avoid becoming ceremonially unclean or perhaps because they simply don't care enough. The third to arrive is a foreigner, a Samaritan, whose ethnicity was despised by thoroughbred Jews. Yet he stops and at significant cost to himself in terms of money, time and safety takes care of the man, removing him to a safe place and giving instructions for the man's rehabilitation - at his own expense.
In his latest encyclical letter, Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis focuses on this parable to reveal how there is a bit of all of these characters in all of us. Sometimes we find ourselves sharing the victim's plight - overtaken by events and at the mercy of unscrupulous forces that we are powerless to resist. At other times we are in the shoes of those who pass by. There is so much need in the world that we cannot help everybody - so we end up turning a blind eye, a deaf ear. We may even fall in with the robbers, who perpetrated the crime which precipitates the story. At the end of the day, Francis wants us to appreciate Jesus' point: reaching across all barriers of race and respectability, agendas and distractions, we share a common humanity, which is expressed when we prioritise the needs of those who suffer.
The current crises of Covid 19 and climate change are both unwelcome, yet they offer us the opportunity to learn what being global citizens entails because they force us to work together. If we are going to beat the virus, if we are going to address climate change, if we are going to treat and rescue their victims, we have to find common cause. We can no longer walk by on the other side, isolating ourselves in our own private spheres of interest or own own affluent societies or nation states. "We are not safe until the world is safe" is the mantra one hears increasingly from health experts commenting on the vaccine roll out. And that poses a challenging question: Should we be urging our government to prioritise our own safety, or have we a moral duty to strive instead that supplies of the various vaccines and their prioritisation are administered fairly throughout the world?